This series of recordings that're labeled: "Radio (+ a year)" is the most complete selection of my (tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE"s) endeavors in radio. It begins in 1979 not because I was working with radio, per se, but because I was working with an audio interactive medium akin to radio but more accessible for uncensored participation to the general public. From the very beginning my interest was in free speech, music that doesn't get enough airplay, & more egalitarian participation.
In a sense, it all began with the launching of B.U.T.N. (the Baltimore Underground Telephone (or Telectrophereharmoanic) Network) in the form of TESTES-3 on January 24, 1979. TESTES-3 was an anonymously run "phone station" initiated by Richard Ellsberry with the collaboration of tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE & Doug Retzler. It began somewhat simply: there was a phone with the number that corresponded to the words TESTES-3 (837-8373) attached to an answering machine - both hidden in the closet of my bedroom in the rented house that Doug & I were living in in Baltimore. Doug, particularly, was very active in graffiting around Baltimore with stickers that said things like: "For a Good Time Call TESTES-3". We promoted it otherwise by spreading rumors & encouraging people to call the number - without identifying ourselves as the people behind it all.
In those days, answering machines were fairly new & not necessarily well-know to alotof people. While the history of the invention may go back to 1898, it's said that the 1st commercially viable one didn't appear until 1971 with the "PhoneMate". At any rate, it's quite possible that by 1979 very few people had one.
When people called TESTES-3, they heard a prerecorded Outgoing Message that was followed by a beep that signaled that they would then be recorded. Since most of the callers appeared to be unfamiliar with the beep as a recording signal, much of what we initially recorded as input from callers was just people talking to each other before they hung up about what they'd just heard. We (mainly me) would then take these recordings & use them as material for outgoing tapes. Thus, repeat callers might hear their own voices played back to them - still not knowing who we were or understanding why we were doing this. Our idea was to get people to participate in media rather than to just be passive absorbers of television etc.
Since Baltimore was a very mean-spirited, ignorant, hateful place at the time, many of the callers, after figuring out that they were being recorded, just called to 'insult' us by calling us "fags" & such-like. Obviously, we set ourselves up for this by choosing the phone number mnemonic that we did. In order to pick a number that would also spell something to our liking, we had to look at the available exchanges (the 1st 3 numbers of the 7-digit number) & try out different combinations of the 4 numbers that followed. When we found a number that spelled something that we liked, we'd call it to see whether it was in use. Our original 1st choice was "VD-RADIO" but at the time that was unavailable because it had only recently ceased to be someone's phone number & an interval of something like 6 months had to occur before it became available again. As such, we chose TESTES-3 - partially because I'd been told by a doctor that I had 3 testicles.
The 1st piece here is the very 1st Outgoing Message we made that explained the interactive process. I've chosen it here as a symbol of the beginning. The 3 of us, obviously, disguised our voices. I have over 66 hours of audio documentation from this project which went on for about 5 months until we could finally get VD-RADIO as out next number. Four 90 minute audio cassettes of all the Outgoing Messages are available as tapes 8609-8612 through Widemouth Tapes here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/WdmUCatalog.html .
VD-RADIO was a name we liked because we imagined it spreading like VD (Venereal Disease aka STD: Sexually Transmitted Disease). The idea was that these phone stations would spread through intimate contact rather than through hierarchically imposed mass media.
Unlike TESTES-3, we no longer ran VD-RADIO anonymously. Instead, we had 3 phones in 3 different houses, all with the same phone number as extensions of each other, & had enough people involved so that if someone called they might get into a personal interaction instead of a prerecorded one (although was still the staple &/or back-up). Another option was that people could send their own recordings to my P.O.Box for airplay &/or eventual publication. Two Widemouth tapes (8617 & 8618) resulted from that.
The very brief 2nd track here is from one of the tapes sent to us. This was the announcer follow-up of a parody of pop music by Baltimoreans Randy Stevens & Theresa Vello. In a review of the VD-RADIO tapes in OP Magazine's "V" issue (March/April, 1984) the reviewer panned them saying: "The remaining tapes, including Tape Sent to VD Radio, masquerade under the guise of phone-art. If this junk is art or music, then Maynard G. Krebs was a real beat poet." The reviewer completely missed the point that, from my perspective, these were published as social research & weren't presented by me as either art OR music. (For more on these reviews & my responses see here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Review%28s%29-8617.html & here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/Review%28s%29-8618.html )
My own interests in what to do with sound were highly informed by avant-garde classical music & jazz & rock, etc.. I loved the work of John Cage, eg, & that of many, MANY others - such as Lou Reed's "Metal Machine Music". I embraced NOISE with enthusiasm & recorded the TESTES-3 tapes at a loud volume to encourage distortion.
From this impassioned beginning my forays into radio were characterized by incredible amounts of work on my part, extremely hateful hostility from many corners, & the finding of like-minded folks to further friend & collaborate with. This series of Radio tapes documents this process fairly well. My conflict with WJHU (the radio station of Johns Hopkins University), eg, can be heard on the 2nd track of "Radio 1983" just as the wonderful collaborations with RAN of NAR (Not Available Radio) & his "Fingernails on a Blackboard" JHU program can be heard on tracks 4 to 12.
My partial description of having my apartment torched by an arsonist presumably hired by the assistant to my landlord followed by my having a show cancelled that I'd spent most of my money on followed by being knifed by a punk with a Mohawk haircut on the streets who 'thought' I looked "too weird" can be heard on track 1 of 'Radio 1985". This might've been my 1st radio collaboration - with Tim Clifford (& Owen O'Toole) of WMFO, the radio station of Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, outside of Boston. The 3rd track is of G.X. Jupiter Larsen, of "The Haters", playing my stuff on the radio on CFRO in Vancouver, Canada. G.X. was probably the 1st person outside the US who had the audacity to play anything by me.
From then on, various tours happened & I got to do radio at Tufts again, & in Colorado, MontrÃ©al, & New Jersey before moving to Pittsburgh in 1996 & collaborating with Ed-Um Bucholtz who was a DJ at WRCT (the station of Carnegie-Mellon University) who's certainly one of the best music event organizers in Pittsburgh.
In 1986, I gave a guerrilla pirate tv premier of one of my movies (see the December 27 entry here: http://idioideo.pleintekst.nl/MereOutline1986.html ) that included some crude footage of the anarchist gathering in Chicago in memoriam to the Haymarket Martyrs. By 1999, a group of us started a pirate radio station In Pittsburgh called "97.9, Pittsburgh Pirates, Stealers of the Airwaves" - a take-off on the ever-popular sports teams.
In 2000, my collaborator etta cetera & I did radio in Australia; in 2002, it was back to WFMU in NJ again; in 2003, I did radio in San Francisco; in 2004, pirate radio in Barcelona at the fabulous Radio Bronka, then a phone interview with Brooklyn College's station; in 2006, pirate radio in Olympia, WA; in 2010, it was back to Boulder & KGNU. Now, in 2012, I'm back to radio in Pittsburgh where I appear to be as controversial as ever - this time for playing political classical music that punks hate & classical stations will rarely or NEVER play.
As for whether my recordings ever get played on the radio without my being there in person? WELL.. occasionally I send out recordings to possibly open-minded folks & sometimes DJs seem to actually SEEK OUT RECORDINGS OF MINE online or wherever. That anyone does so continues to please & amaze me. Steve Charman (&, probably, Warren Burt) has played my recordings on the radio in Australia; Steve Bradley has podcast them; Hal Rammel, in Milwaukee; Jason Sigal at WFMU; The Arvo Fingers Delirious Insomniac Freeform Radio Show on WLUW in Chicago; DJ Rick in California; Steve Boyle at WRCT; Jesse Jarnow at WFMU; Greg on WPRB Princeton; &, no doubt, other that I'm not recalling or never knew about. THESE PEOPLE ARE RARE.
I've also published 2 CD-Rs of what I call "RATical RATio" of radical radio material that I like as a part of the Street Ratbag anarchist publishing project. This has included some of the things in this "Radio" series (such as the WMBR track on "Radio 1999") as well as material from the Church of the SubGenius & many others.
- December 4, 2012E.V. notes from tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE
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